Tuesday, April 16, 2019

CEO: Drone tech startup PrecisionHawk getting new digs, adding jobs - WRAL Tech Wire

CEO: Drone tech startup PrecisionHawk getting new digs, adding jobs - WRAL Tech Wire


CEO: Drone tech startup PrecisionHawk getting new digs, adding jobs - WRAL Tech Wire

Posted: 16 Apr 2019 11:33 AM PDT

RALEIGH — Drone tech company PrecisionHawk is moving.

In news that was first reported by the Triangle Business Journal, the fast-growing company is getting ready to move out of its current offices on Six Forks Road and into bigger digs above Raleigh's Milk Bar.

The move is expected to be complete by the end of August and supports the firm's "deep-seated roots in the Raleigh area," PrecisionHawk CEO Michael Chasen told WRAL TechWire today.

"Moving to the new location will place PrecisionHawk in the heart of downtown Raleigh and add our unique energy to the active heartbeat of Glenwood South. This move will support our goal to be a vibrant and active part of the Raleigh community,"Chasen said.

How PrecisionHawk helped History network's hunt for buried treasure in Philippine jungle

Founded in 2010, the company was later rebranded under its current name, emerging as a leader in drones and emerging technology with applications in industries ranging from mining to agriculture.

In 2018, it raised a whopping $75 million and its workforce continues to grow.

"We anticipate hiring for an additional 50 roles within the next two months, with plans to increase our headcount to north of 350 by the end of 2019," said Chasen.

As for fundraising, Chasen said "we're always looking for additional capital."

"Due to the vast nature of opportunities in the commercial drone space, we will continually look for ways to grow PrecisionHawk," he said.

PrecisionHawk acquires two companies with focus on energy sector

Daymond John-backed start-up Bombas is reinventing the sock—and it's bringing in $100 million a year - CNBC

Posted: 16 Apr 2019 07:44 AM PDT

For many, socks may seem like an insignificant wardrobe staple. But for David Heath and Randy Goldberg, founders of buzzy sock start-up Bombas, socks are not only big business, they are helping make people's lives a little bit better.

Founded in 2013 and backed by "Shark Tank" star Daymond John ("I'm really happy to be part of what they're doing," John tells CNBC Make It), Bombas is often referred to as the "Toms" or "Warby Parker" of socks for its socially conscious business model: For every pair of socks sold, Bombas donates a pair to the homeless.

In fact, the charitable aspect of the business isn't just an afterthought, it's what sparked the idea for the company in the first place. In 2011, Heath stumbled upon a Facebook post that said socks were the most requested clothing item at homeless shelters. The statistic gnawed at him.

"I thought, 'How sad is it that — something I've never spent more than a couple of seconds thinking about [how to pay for] could be seen as a true luxury for somebody else,'" Heath, now 36 and CEO of Bombas, tells CNBC Make It.

At the time, Heath was working with Goldberg at a media start-up, so he told his friend what he'd learned. Inspired by the boom of other buy-one, give-one companies, they thought maybe they could replicate a similar business with socks.

"We didn't grow up dreaming of starting a sock company. I'm not sure anybody ever has. But we got obsessed with socks," says Goldberg, now 40 and Bombas' chief brand officer.

"We looked at every pair of socks in the market [and] we realized that what most people were wearing just weren't that comfortable. And there were ideas and features that we started to notice that we could improve upon, and we just set out on a ... journey to create one, amazing pair of socks."

To begin constructing the perfect pair of socks, the duo worked with manufacturers around the world, testing existing socks then sampling their own versions and giving them to friends to test. It was a challenging time, since they were still working their full-time jobs while hustling on Bombas at night and on weekends from home and at coffee shops.

Friends and family were interested in giving them seed money, but Heath says they chose to bootstrap the research. They believed if they could just get the product out there, it would be a hit.

After all the testing, Heath says they decided to make seven material improvements with Bombas socks for better comfort, including using high-quality cotton and merino wool, reengineering the toe seam, creating a "honeycomb" arch support to hug the middle of the foot and using an improved stitching technique on the heel to grip the foot. Additionally, Bombas calf socks were created so they don't slide down or leave marks on the leg, and for its ankle socks, there's a cloth blister tab to avoid rubbing.

The toe seam improvement was actually inspired by Heath's own embattled history with socks. He has ADHD and as a kid, suffered from hyper-sensitivity issues, so finding a comfortable pair of socks was something he struggled with.

"I tried pretty much everything on the market," he says. "I ultimately resorted to turning my socks inside out, because the toe seam over the front would always irritate me. Whether I was in class or playing sports, I just couldn't let it go. So, in a weird way, starting this company kind of fulfilled somewhat of a childhood problem that I solved."

In 2013, the co-founders quit their day jobs and launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo that spring and summer. Originally, they set a goal of raising $15,000 in 30 days, but within the first 24 hours, Heath recalls, they had raised over $25,000. In total, Bombas crowdfunded just over $140,000. With the capital, they officially launched the business that October.

In 2014, Heath and Goldberg raised a $1 million seed round from friends and family. The entrepreneurs also went on ABC's "Shark Tank" and scored a deal with Fubu founder John. (The original deal was $200,000 for 17.5 percent equity in the company, but The New York Times notes that the terms were renegotiated after the show.)

In the two months after their episode aired, Bombas told CNBC Make It, the company did $1.2 million in sales and sold out of its inventory.

John tells CNBC Make It Bombas one of his top three most successful "Shark Tank" investments.

"It's been a dream working with them, honestly. They're laser-focused," John tells CNBC Make It. "I don't even know if they ever call me for anything more than a little bit of words of advice, and they go out and they execute, so it's not been a lot of heavy lifting on my part. They've also taught me about the value of when a consumer feels that you have a social cause that is really amazing and they believe in you, how they will support you."

At first, Bombas offered just ankle and calf socks, but it has since expanded to offer everything from no-show to ankle to quarter and knee-high styles and athletic socks as well as dress. And Bombas socks are not cheap: A 12-pack of women's ankle socks can cost $145, while a single pair of men's vintage stripe calf socks costs $12, and a pair of women's no-show socks costs $10.50.

But people are buying them.

In 2015, Bombas did $6 million in revenue, according to the company, then $7.5 million in revenue in 2016 and $47.8 million in 2017, a notable jump that Bombas attributes to its full-team working together on everything from product design and development to marketing. In 2018, its revenue was $102 million, according to the company. The latest valuation of the New York-based company was in 2015 at $15 million, according to PitchBook.

The start-up has had issues along the way. Customers complained about incomplete or incorrect orders and a lack of customer service response during the 2018 holiday season, for example. Bombas tells CNBC Make It that it is committed to customer satisfaction and refunded or issued gift cards to orders that were affected.

Others have questioned the general effectiveness and ethics surrounding the altruistic business model, which is core to Bombas' brand. Some have even called the practice "guilt laundering." But giving back is deeply ingrained in the company and not something it simply puts in marketing, Bombas says. The Bombas team volunteers weekly, according to the company, connecting directly with the organizations it donates to by handing out socks and serving food.

Then of course there's the fact that $12 for a pair of ankle socks seems steep. But Goldberg likens Bombas' pricing model to Starbucks, explaining that pre-Starbucks, Americans weren't spending that much money on coffee, opting to brew Maxwell House at home or purchasing a cup at the corner deli for a handful of change.

"[Starbucks] improved the quality so much and improved the experience around coffee, that they were bringing the price up to three times what they used to spend," Goldberg says. "So if it's 75 cents at a corner deli and it's $2.25 at Starbucks, you're willing to pay extra for a better experience, for a better product. And it's the same thing for our socks."

But as of Monday, it's not just about socks for Bombas. The company launched its first new category of product: T-shirts. The shirts are made with Peruvian pima cotton and are designed to feel soft and cool (kind of like "the other side of the pillow," the company says). Bombas T-shirts cost around $36, and for every shirt purchased, Bombas will donate a shirt to someone in need. The company opted for T-shirts, Bombas says, because of customer demand.

"They waited a good amount of time to do it, they didn't spread themselves too thin," John tells CNBC Make It of the T-shirt launch. "When their product comes out, it has been worked on and really well thought of and developed."

The Bombas team plans to launch additional categories of apparel and — as a result — donate more. To date, Bombas says, it has donated over 18 million socks and T-shirts, items that are engineered to "specifically meet the needs of people who don't have the luxury of putting on clean clothes every day, such as anti-microbial finishes, reinforced seams and darker colors to show less visible wear," according to the Bombas site.

"Something that we say sometimes is, 'It's just socks.' But when we say that, what we're saying is, 'It's just socks, but look at what socks can do,'" Goldberg says. "You hand somebody a pair of socks who's having a hard day, and it starts a conversation and that's a moment of dignity and then all of a sudden, you have a little bit more compassion, a little bit more understanding, and you've helped somebody out."

"These are the types of things that when you start a business, you don't imagine all the subtle and important things that can come of it," he says. "But the basic concept is what drives all this."

Don't miss: How this 22-year-old with Down syndrome built a multimillion-dollar business off his love of crazy socks

Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook!

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to ABC's "Shark Tank."

Digital Defectors: Why 3 Execs Left Cushy Corporate Jobs For Crypto - Forbes

Posted: 16 Apr 2019 03:00 AM PDT

A Goldman Sachs Group Inc. logo hangs on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, U.S.

BLOOMBERG NEWS

Mona El Isa, 35

Corporate Job: VP Equities Trading, Goldman Sachs

Current Gig: CEO, Madeeba

After eight years as a rising star inside Goldman Sachs' equity trading division, Mona El Isa decided, like so many others, to open a hedge fund of her own. Despite quickly raising $30 million in 2014, she soon began to struggle with the operational, regulatory and back office hurdles necessary to launch a successful fund.

"You never really understand something until you see it working in practice and you're involved in every single part," says El Isa. "And I was really shocked about how inefficient it was."

El Isa begrudgingly pulled the plug on her fund in 2015 and returned the funds she'd been given to manage. She then took a year off and immersed herself in studying bitcoin, becoming a regular at bitcoin meetups in her native Switzerland. Her interest was in figuring out how the processes needed to operate a fund could be coded directly into the open source ethereum blockchain.

In February 2016 she founded Melonport, a startup that aims to decentralize and disrupt the mundane but critical operations necessary to run a mutual fund or hedge fund. Tasks like setting up custody, clearing, marketing operations and necessary regulatory filings and approvals have always made fund management prohibitively expensive. Most in the industry cite $150 million as the breakeven level for assets under management. 

"Melonport could really level the playing field", says El Isa from her London offices.

To pay for development of her ethereum based platform called Watermelon, her team raised almost $3 million in 2017, in part by selling the tokens that are now being used on the platform to perform a number of tasks like paying fees and casting corporate action votes.  Then, earlier this year she did the unthinkable by Goldman Sachs standards: She gave it all away.

In February 2019, a group of nine companies and individuals took over control of the asset management protocol her team created. One of those companies, Madeeba, was cofounded by El Isa. Each member of the newly christened Melon Council was given tokens issued on the ethereum blockchain to represent their voting rights, giving all members, including Madeeba, equal say.

Instead of solving the problem of running an investment fund once, for herself, she is now solving it for anyone who wants to participate in the community. Just months after the Melon Council's formation, 55 funds, including kR1 , Base 58 and Crypto Fund AG, are using the melon (MLN) token to conduct trades, pay fees and cast votes as part of the shared fund management infrastructure. "One of the things that drives me is making it possible for people who dream about having their own fund and who are good at it to be able to do so," says El Isa.

 Melonport's tokens now trade at $8.50 each, versus and ICO price of $40 and a peak bubble price of $243.

Eric Piscini, 49

Corporate Job: Global Blockchain Leader, Deloitte

Current Gig: CEO, Citizens Reserve

The former global head of blockchain at the Big Four accounting firm Deloitte saw firsthand the greed and corruption that led to the financial collapse in 2007.  

"I was exposed to everything I wanted to know about banking, and everything I didn't want to know about banking," he says. "All the bad behavior and everything else." So when his clients started to approach him with questions about bitcoin in 2012, he wasn't surprised to learn that the cryptocurrency's pseudonymous creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, left ample evidence that he created the cryptocurrency in large part in reaction against unscrupulous banking behavior.

After going through a bitcoin awakening and realizing the profound changes it could have for business, Piscini made it his mission to push Deloitte's consulting army into the burgeoning field. By 2018, Piscini and two others had made Deloitte's blockchain practice the largest in the world, with 1,200 employees, generating $50 million revenue, he says, and continually searching for new ways to move value without unnecessary middlemen.

Then, in April 2018, he struck out on his own aiming to use the technology that underlies bitcoin to bring more transparency to the way the world's goods move. His Citizens Reserve, wants to turn supply chain infrastructure into a utility similar to, say, a city's water system or electrical grid.

Piscini's goal is to get clients to move beyond the private, permissioned blockchains used by many existing enterprises. He imagines entirely new business models using elements of the publicly accessible ethereum blockchain.

Piscini's most difficult task will be to gather all the parties in a supply chain transaction--—insurance companies, credit score and logistics providers, inventory management services, and payments providers—onto a single platform. What will tie them together, he hopes, isn't his own company, but a network of smart contracts and a token similar to Melonport's that will pay loyalty rewards that users can then use to pay transaction fees and vote for the future direction of the platform.

By paying early adopters cryptotokens, which can then be used to pay fees, cast votes, or sold to another entity, these types of businesses, called distributed autonomous organizations (DAOs) have the potential to incentivize users of any traditional service to move to a decentralized network owned by the users.

"Institutions either want to create equity value or they want to create network value." Piscini says of a central dilemma facing widespread corporate adoption of blockchain. "When you create network value, you create a platform that the community will eventually run and you will become just one of the participants of."

Amber Baldet, 36

Corporate Job: Blockchain Program Lead, JPMorgan Chase

Current Gig: Cofounder and CEO, Clovyr

While studying political science at the University of Florida and working as a summer intern as a developer at a boutique research firm, Amber Baldet stumbled across her first Bloomberg Terminal, used to provide data to traders around the world, and was struck by how centralized data about the financial system was. "I had the sudden realization that the distribution of power in the world was not necessarily just about political dynamics but about these ongoing markets dynamics," she says.

Amber then pivoted away from politics towards finance taking various jobs at financial firms after college, working as a business analyst and financial consultant. By the time she was hired at JPMorgan's  blockchain program, in the spring of 2012, she had already read the bitcoin white paper, and says the cryptocurrency had become her "cypherpunk side project," adding, "I would actually check the internal search at JPMorgan to see if we were going to trade it on the FX desk or something, because I didn't realize how politically contentious it would be."

 At JP Morgan Baldet began to carve out the company's place in the new economy, by focusing on the underlying blockchain technology and figuring out how it could accommodate the privacy and speed demands of the bank's large clients. She became the driving force in the development of JPMorgan Chase's open-source ethereum based blockchain, Quorum, which was used to create JPM Coin, a proprietary implementation of the software. In spite of early success with Quorum Baldet became disillusioned with some of JP Morgan's efforts.

She realized that not only were many of the biggest companies in the world building services restricted to their own customers, but the technology was difficult to understand for many of the smaller companies that stood to benefit most. Instead of democratizing finance, which had been her dream since that initial encounter with the Bloomberg Terminal, she was helping increase efficiency within the existing system.

Last April, Baldet quit with lead Quorum developer Patrick Nielsen to found Clovyr, a New York consulting startup making distributed systems--including both private and public blockchains--more accessible to smaller less well-heeled companies.

"If nobody's working on crossing the barrier between public blockchain projects and large-scale enterprise projects -- if all of those people stand in their silos," she says. "Then it is a self-fulfilling prophecy that these things cannot create a cohesive ecosystem."

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